The Film Festival Makes Us All Voyeurs

cerise howard

Ah, anniversaries. How readily a landmark – and a sense of obligation towards its acknowledgment being given a due sense of occasion – might become more millstone than milestone”. Q. Cerise Howard on the 30th Fribourg International Film Festival

In 2016 I enjoyed one of the many privileges that comes from being a volunteer at the Melbourne International Film Festival – free movie tickets. The films that struck my intrigue were the documentary-styled features of Born in Flames (1983) and Far from the Trees (1972)*. The former tells of underground Feminist groups and their struggles in an alternative socialist democracy in the United States while the latter is a travelogue-inspired feature that depicts the poverty of filmmaker Jacinto Esteva Grew’s home region of Catalonia that stood in contrast to Francisco Franco’s declarations of a Spain that was of economic and social progress and prosperity. This kind cinematic experience was voyeuristic to me as I was not accustomed to imagery that appeared so strange and scattered but it was bold and different thus my captivation. Upon further reflection, the experience proved encouraging in appreciating the broader significance of a film festival. How else was I ever to see these films? What other environment was to create an atmosphere where the audience was bewitched as much it was bemused? It was because of the film festival.

It is a rather enticing thought to dare ourselves to go beyond the norm. The appeal of the radical whether that be a filmmaker, an idea or character of a film festival is personified by their curiosity to something that often goes unnoticed within mainstream recognition of cinema. One such voice who sings on the fringe is Cerise Howard. A frequent contributor of the Senses of Cinema Journal she has written extensively on film festivals; her expertise is thanks to her position as Artistic Director of the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia and Co-founder of TILDE (Trans and Gender Diverse Film Festival). From her readings, we can learn from her many observations and musings that film festivals provide a platform for not just for new filmmakers to enter the market but also provide an opportunity to films and their creators, often from earlier decades, to achieve new life and acclaim. In her essay, The Nature of THE BEAST remains…Irrepressible, she details a classic example of a film that was quickly pushed into obscurity due to the “moral panic” that erupted amid the relaxation of censorship laws that allowed films to experiment greater with depictions of sex and violence during the 1970s. Although a prudent traditionalist, I can’t deny the influence of a film and how it plays a significant role in engaging the attributes that are innate to the human condition – desire, curiosity, inquisitiveness. Although the overt depiction of carnality, for example, may prove intimidating, even confronting to anyone who is not well acquainted to the visceral, it is a breakthrough to challenging viewer perceptions as well as a break from a stringent ideal that aims to securitize society. A film festival thrives on such curiosity, it doesn’t tell us to witness something controversial or provocative, it invites us to.

Aside from being a tribute to creativity the biggest incentive a film festival gives the viewer is an opportunity to witness something that is not often expressed within the mainstream. The Film Festival, regardless of what theme or setting it encompasses, reminds us that the screen is the window into many worlds that reflect and inspire the human condition and experience.

*For curious folk who wish to get a sense of the two films I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Howard, C 2016, “The Nature of THE BEAST remains…Irrepressible”, Senses of Cinema, No. 79. Pp. 1-5

Howard, C 2016, “Of Female Trouble Here, There and Everywhere: The 30th Fribourg International Film Festival”, Senses of Cinema, No. 79







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